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Britain Names First Woman Director of ‘Spy-Catcher’ Agency

From a Times Staff Writer

Stella Rimington, a career civil servant, has been appointed the first woman to head Britain’s MI-5 counterintelligence service, a top-secret agency that has been the subject of many thrillers, movies and television dramas, the government announced Monday.

Rimington, who has been with the agency 22 years, will become director general of the Security Service, as MI-5 is formally called, when its current director general, Patrick Walker, retires in February. Rimington is Walker’s deputy.

The British government has always refused to publicly acknowledge the existence of MI-5, let alone reveal the name of its director general. The mere publication of the director general’s name has been considered a violation of Britain’s tough Official Secrets Act.

But new legislation making the Security Service, Britain’s “spy catchers,” more accountable has brought the process into the open. Still, the Home Office on Monday did not provide a photograph of Rimington and did not disclose full details of her career.

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According to a sketchy biography, Rimington in 1963 married another civil servant, John Rimington, now 56 and the director general of Britain’s Health and Safety Executive. They have two daughters and are now separated.


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